CLA & LAO Lawyers sign landmark agreement

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (“CLA”) and the LAO Lawyers have signed a landmark Criminal Justice Protocol Agreement “CJPA” at Queen’s Park on December 11, 2013.

The agreement arises from, and is designed to avert the growing crisis in the administration of criminal justice in Ontario arising from LAO’s modernization efforts. The agreement contains key commitments rooted in professionalism arising from a mutual recognition of our aligned interests by virtually all lawyers that provide criminal justice services in Ontario. Under this agreement, we are stronger together in advocating on behalf of the indigent accused for increased capacity and resources to address the inequalities within the criminal justice system resulting from chronic under-funding and policy implementation that impedes the ability of accused to access quality legal representation.

The CJPA commits the CLA and the LAO Lawyers to work together to develop protocols that include defining our respective roles in the criminal justice system, advocating for greater certificate coverage, support by the CLA for the voluntary recognition of the LAO Lawyers collective bargaining rights by Legal Aid Ontario, tariff review and mutual support for job action should it become necessary.

The agreement also addresses the concern that LAO Lawyers are a threat to the services that our membership provides. They are not. LAO’s modernization efforts are the threat combined with unrealistic tariff caps and financial eligibility thresholds that are an embarrassment. The agreement will further address the memberships concerns by self-defining our aligned interests and commitment to criminal justice in Ontario for the most vulnerable and marginalized people in this Province rather than someone else. Importantly, under the CJPA the LAO Lawyers have recognized that a vibrant, independent private-sector is essential to the fair administration of justice of criminal justice in Ontario and will support the CLA’s efforts to ensure that this promise, contained in the MOU that ended the boycott, is honoured.

The CJPA is a necessary step in re-setting LAO’s moral justice compass.